A few weeks ago, I posted a blog in which Wolfgang Richter, CIO of PWC, describes three layers in a business: Strategy, operating, and systems. \u00a0 Companies, says Richter, excel at the strategy layer, often skip over that challenging and change-resistant operating layer, and go straight to the systems layer, which is supposed to make that operating layer efficient.\u00a0\u00a0 This leaves CIOs in the unenviable position of having to create change at the operating layer themselves, when they are not always well positioned to do so.\u00a0\n\tWhen Michael Mathias became CIO of Blue Shield of California, he joined a company that was running most of its processes in silos with very little ability to leverage investments and capabilities across the enterprise. One major area ripe for change, for example, was customer service. \u201cWe wanted to engage with our customers differently going forward,\u201d says Mathias. \u201cBut we were running customer service differently from business to business, so we wound up with a scatter shot approach. We needed to think through a new strategy that would give us a better approach and help us meet our business goals around customer engagement.\u201d\n\tOnce the executive committee had settled on its new customer engagement strategy, Mathias took action. Rather than wait for the others to drive the operating changes, while he focused on IT, Mathias met with his CEO and raised his hand to take a major change leadership role. He then met with a variety of stakeholders to make sure all of the functions and businesses were aligned with the new customer engagement approach. \u00a0\n\t\u201cI sat down with our CEO and talked about what we need to do be successful and earned his support for bringing the business leaders together,\u201d says Mathias.\u00a0 \u201cI talked to them about what, in each area, we were doing separately, and what we needed to be doling collectively.\u00a0 They understood that the only way to achieve our new business goals was to have a unified vision and a business architecture to make that vision actionable.\u00a0 In those early meetings I didn\u2019t talk about technology at all.\u201d\n\tUsing Business Architecture to Drive Change\n\tMathias relied and continues to rely heavily on the concept of business architecture to create change at Blue Shield of California.\u00a0 \u201cWe use business architecture to help the business defining the \u2018what\u2019,\u201d says Mathias. \u201cWhat do they want to be? What do they want to do?\u00a0 In IT, we tend to focus a lot on the \u2018how,\u2019 but not so much on the what.\u201d\u00a0 Mathias finds that business architecture helps him and his team to drive business leaders toward a shared understanding of where to focus at the business level, before they even start to talk about IT.\n\t\u201cWhen I started the CIO job at Blue Shield of California, I wanted to develop an IT strategy, but I realized that I couldn\u2019t begin until the entire leadership team had a clear view of our business objectives,\u201d says Mathias.\u00a0 Once the executive committee was clear on their business goals, Mathias, his business partners, and his team spent four months developing a new business architecture, which they then presented it to the Board.\u00a0 \u201cIn the presentation, we are able to tell the Board, \u2018Here\u2019s where the business is going in the next five years; this is what we want to achieve; here is how IT will support those objectives, and here is the portfolio of initiatives. \u2018\u201d\n\tMathias finds that a defined business architecture gives all of his business partners clear view of the business and its capabilities. \u201cThe business architecture shows us our strengths, our gaps, and how to prioritize,\u201d says Mathias. \u201cBefore business architecture, we had a siloed approach with tremendous redundancy in projects and spend; we were getting no leverage. Now, it is much easier for us to agree on how to direct our IT spend and focus our resources in the right way. \u201c\n\tBusiness Architecture plus Enterprise Architecture = Alignment\n\tMathias\u2019s enterprise architecture team typically takes the lead in defining the business architecture.\u00a0 Within the enterprise architecture team are several business architects who have deep knowledge of a set of business processes used in critical parts of the company.\u00a0 The business architects, along with applications, data and infrastructure architects, all participate in the development of the business architecture. \u00a0\u201cBy having the technical architects work alongside the business architects, we create tight linkages between our business goals and our IT strategy,\u201d says Mathias. \u201cWe are able to build our technology architecture in parallel with our business architecture; we are able to execute much more quickly this way. \u00a0It all becomes part of the same picture.\u201d\n\tThe Business Architect\n\tWithout great business architects, it is hard to build a business architecture. So, how do you identify the right people? \u201cI look for people who can bridge technology and business. They can think conceptually, abstractly and they speak the language of the business,\u201d says Mathias. \u201cBut I\u2019m also looking for people who have a systems architecture background, so that they understand how systems work together.\u00a0 It\u2019s a tough skillset, and because of that, we augment the team with some outside resources.\u201d\n\tWhile the concept of business architect resembles a business relationship manager, Mathias doesn\u2019t use the term.\u00a0 \u201cI personally don\u2019t care for the \u2018relationship manager\u2019 moniker,\u201d he says.\u00a0 \u201c\u2019Business architect\u2019 is a much more accurate description of the role:\u00a0 someone who architects the future vision of the business; someone who looks at the future of the overall enterprise. \u00a0Business architects need to be able to think strategically, but equally as important, they need to make that strategy actionable.\u201d\n\tAdvice for CIOs in Need of a Business Architecture:\n\tLead the charge. \u00a0\u201cAs CIOs, we have the luck and the curse to see the enterprise in all of its beauty and its ugliness,\u201d says Mathias.\u00a0 There really is nobody else who has this opportunity.\u00a0 As CIOs, we can look at where we are and say, this is what I see; these are the opportunities, these are the gaps, this is the history and this is the future.\u00a0 It is our responsibility to bring that perspective to the table; we have to have the courage to let everyone see that the baby is ugly.\u201d\n\tGet anointed by the CEO.\u00a0 \u201cI have to give credit to our CEO who had the faith and trust in me to me to lead this business architecture initiative,\u2019 says Mathias.\u00a0 \u201cWithout him behind me, we would not have been successful.\u201d\n\tSpend the time.\u00a0 \u201cYou are going to have to spend the time with the senior team getting them comfortable with the concept and gaining their trust,\u201d says Mathias. \u201cThe more you bring people together to show them a horizontal view of the enterprise, the more quickly your business architecture will evolve.\u201d\n\tBe patient.\u00a0 \u201cThis is not easy; this is tiring work,\u201d Mathias says. \u201cYou need to develop the right talent and you need support from every executive in the company.\u00a0 Thinking about a unified business architecture is a learning process for your team and for the business as a whole. It is a stark change from before. \u00a0You are bringing people together who have always thought vertically and asking them to think horizontally. That\u2019s a stark change. \u00a0\u00a0It will take some time, but once your business partners get into it, they will see the value of the approach.\u201d\n\tAbout Michael Mathias and Blue Shield of California\n\tMichael Mathias joined Blue Shield of California in January 2013 as Senior Vice President and Chief Information Officer. Mathias\u00a0directs the company's technology strategy and operations and oversees Blue Shield's significant technology investments. Mathias brings more than 25 years of industry experience to Blue Shield. Prior to joining the company, Mathias spent 16 years at Aetna, first as chief technology officer and then as CIO, directing the company's information delivery systems and long-term technology strategy. He also worked for U.S. HealthCare, UBS and Educational Testing Services.\n\tMathias holds a bachelor's degree from Long Island University.\u00a0\n\tBlue Shield of California, an independent member of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, is a not-for-profit health plan with three million members, 5,000 employees and $10.5 billion in annual revenue. Founded in 1939 and headquartered in San Francisco, Blue Shield of California provides health, life, dental, vision and Medicare insurance and health care service plans in California. Blue Shield of California was named one of the World\u2019s Most Ethical Companies in 2012 and 2013. Since 2005, the company has contributed more than $200 million to Blue Shield of California Foundation, one of BusinessWeek's most generous corporate foundations.